Exit Polling And 2018 House Midterms
With the 2018 Midterms in the books, some analysis is in order. I will use exit polling to analyze the House elections. I hope to do the same for the Senate and other elections in the upcoming days.
FiveThirtyEight complied CNN’s exit polling into a well-written article, which will be the basis of my analysis. As of Saturday evening, the Democrats won and the Republicans lost 32 seats. 9 races have not been called yet.
As FiveThirtyEight points out, there was a huge gender gap on Tuesday. 59% of women voted for Democrats, while 40% voted for Republicans. Among women, Democrats were 19 point favorites. 52% of men voted for Republicans, while 48% voted for Democrats. Among men, Republicans were 4 point favorites. Overall, that is a 23 point difference.
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But why such a large difference? Considering President Trump’s (un)favorables among women, and how the midterms are often a referendum on the president, it is not hard to see why Republicans struggled to attract more women.
The Democrats were able to remind people of Mr. Trump and the Republicans’ problems with women. The president has faced numerous accusations of sexual assault and has the ongoing Stormy Daniels saga. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was very divisive on gender lines. All of these events make it very hard for Republicans to appeal to women.
There are other very important takeaways, some of which may explain the gender gap.
President Trump and the Republicans campaigned hard on the issues of the border and immigration, confident that they were the most important to the public.
41% of voters said that health care was the most important. Considering the Republicans’ weak track record on this issue, especially the failed attempts to ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare, this spells trouble for 2020 and the years to come.
60% of respondents said they support stricter gun control measures. Again, this is a bit problematic for the Republicans, who have historically not supported such legislation. They either need to modify their party platform a bit or shift the discussion to other issues.
To be fair, 23% of voters did say that immigration was their most important issue. However, 46% said that President Trump’s policies were “too tough”, compared to 17% who said that they were “not tough enough” and to 33% who said that they were “about right.” The President and his allies need to retool their message. If almost half the electorate feels that your approach is “too tough”, especially on your key issue, then something is wrong.
They need at least 40% to believe that the polices are “about right.” Assuming that a fair portion of the 17% who said the policies were “not tough enough” vote for him, then the President is in much better shape.
The Republicans continue to struggle in attracting young and newer voters. 18–29 year olds favored Democrats by 35 points. New voters favored them by 26 points. The Democrats yet again succeeded in appealing to these groups by a large margin, who most likely will carry their enthusiasm into 2020.
These voters will have to live through the results of the election the longest. So far, what the president and his supporters are selling does not appeal to them. The Republicans need to find a way to appeal to young and new voters. They cannot win off the backs of the older generations forever.
33% of voters claimed that President Trump was not a factor in their vote. This is very difficult to believe, considering his polarizing nature. If true, it may be wise to make this group larger, reducing the 38% who voted to oppose him. Only 26% of voters cast their ballot in favor of him. Mr. Trump needs to increase this percentage by at least 10% before 2020.
There were other bright spots for the Republicans. 70% of respondents believe that the economy is doing well. 54% believe that the Russian collusion investigation is politically motivated. Moving forward, the president and his party should focus on these issues while they improve their favorables with the border and immigration.
Now, looking back, it is especially puzzling why Mr. Trump and his party did not focus more on the economy. It is definitely a less partisan topic, and the numbers make them look good. One of the most immediate concerns for any voter is their pocketbook. Since almost 3/4 of them think that the economy is in “good shape”, it would not be hard for the president and his allies to argue it was their policies that have done this.
Perhaps the Republicans believed that focusing on the same issues as 2016 would work. It did galvanize the 33–35% of core Trump supporters, but this is not a majority. Mr. Trump and his allies have to attract a wider array of voters, especially if there is a popular Democratic nominee in 2020. Remember, a big reason why Mr. Trump won in 2016 is because Secretary Clinton was seen almost as unfavorably as him.
It also confusing why Mr. Trump and his supporters did not question the Russian collusion investigation more. Since its height in the spring and early summer, the possibility of the president being in serious legal trouble has dropped considerably. Mr. Trump has long complained that the investigation was and is a witch hunt, and a majority of voters seem to agree with the idea.
Overall, the Democrats did well in the House midterms. They have captured enough seats for the majority, which is a mild rebuke of the president and his party. The Republicans focused too much on the border and immigration while failing to use the economy and the Russian investigation to their advantage. Too many voters view Mr. Trump as “too tough” on his key issue, which suggests that he needs to refocus his messaging.
Considering that more people want to focus on health care and stricter gun control, the Republicans need to either modify their policies or shift the debate if they hope to win in 2020. The Democrats have recovered some momentum they lost in recent years.
There will be more analysis to come, so stay tuned!
Originally published at theprimacyofpolitics.blogspot.com on November 10, 2018.